In Genesis 14, in the wake of a highly improbable yet resounding victory against the Four Kings, the victorious Abram is visited by Melchizedek, king and high priest of Salem.
We do not know much about him, except that he blesses Abram four times on behalf of God Most High, and offers Abram a meal of bread and wine. He does so in open territory, in a valley setting, in view of all.
The imagery involved here is reminiscent of Psalms 23:
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
The war in which Abram participated involved two Valleys, those of Siddim (i.e. a valley near the Dead Sea) and that of the Kings. The Hebrew word translated as valley is a word that means “vale,” and it is used only three times in the Bible, all in Genesis 14.
In Psalms 23, the poet writes about God the Shepherd leading David through “the valley of the shadow of death.” The word for “valley” here is a different word than the one used in Genesis, but they mean the same thing. In Genesis, they are not just any valleys, but the Valleys of Siddim and of the Kings, so they are called vales since these are proper nouns. In Psalms, we have an unnamed valley.
Melchizedek comes and lays a table for Abram in the wilderness. He prepares a table before him, in the presence of his enemies, just as the Psalmist receives from God the Shepherd.
For a long time, Christian apologetics made the claim that the Old Testament is understandable only “in light of the New.” But within the Old Testament, one passage also gives insight into another. It’s a woven tapestry filled with clues.
Melchizedek has been sent by God Most High to remind Abram that God Most High is his shepherd. Soon, as we will see, this Shepherd will begin to form the flock.